Cottage Living Seeks Piece of Lifestyle Market With 'Comfort, Simplicity, Style'

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Cottage Living is not country living.


That is what Time Inc.'s Southern Progress Corp. division stresses to advertisers, retailers and media as the August launch nears for Cottage Living, a lifestyle magazine for women ages 35-45.


"We're more than a look, we're a lifestyle," said Eleanor Griffin, editor of Birmingham, AL-based Cottage Living. "Because we're not a one-set book, we don't mesh with the country titles at all. Our book will tell it as it is -- very relaxed, slice of life, Coke cans open."


Positioning is critical. The country segment already has formidable players in Meredith Corp.'s Country Home and Hearst Magazines' Country Living. The women's lifestyle segment also has many titles, vying to advise on home decor, gardens, food, entertainment and travel.


The magazine aims to be an authority for readers who aspire to a cottage lifestyle, whose main residence is a cottage or who consider a cottage as a second home. The magazine's tagline sums up the attitude: "Comfort. Simplicity. Style."


Content will focus on how-tos for a personal cottage look, step-by-step instructions on cottage gardens, travel getaways, comfort foods, inspiring photographs and articles. And editorial already is a year ahead in terms of seasonal photo shoots.


"There are so many shelter books out there that are fabulous," Griffin said, "but it's so hard to translate what you see on page and how you do it. We say we're a glue-gun-free zone, but we do have projects that are simple, particularly our decorative ideas. The other thing is that people get inspired by everything on TV -- HGTV and DIY TV -- and I think that having a magazine that speaks to that audience, that can walk them through and get their look and not somebody else's, is needed."


Griffin, a 25-year veteran of Southern Progress, and her team of 24 have worked since 2001 to create Cottage Living.


Steve Bohlinger is New York-based vice president and publisher of Cottage Living. He spent 13 years at Southern Progress' Cooking Light, the leading food and fitness magazine nationwide. Even he knows the need to allay misconceptions over the word "cottage."


"In the marketplace we really have to define what 'cottage' is," he said. "They're hearing it differently and seeing it differently. Advertisers are comfortable with the word, but they don't know where to put it. So the 'Living' makes the statement. We're marketing this as a breakout women's lifestyle magazine, not another me-too shelter title."


A centerpiece of Bohlinger's presentation to advertisers and media is a glossy 66-page prototype of Cottage Living. It contains sample articles, photos and specs of the magazine. Time Inc. produced 20,000 of these prototypes, each costing nearly $3.


Cottage Living is one of four titles Time Inc. plans to introduce this year. The others include All You for initial distribution in Wal-Mart stores, and Nuts, a weekly general-interest magazine from Time Inc.'s IPC division in Britain. Life may launch this year as a weekend magazine in newspapers.


Despite the divided attention, Time Inc. is leaving nothing to chance for Cottage Living.


A direct mail drop in May 2001 to test the concept yielded a response rate exceeding 10 percent, said Johnny McIntosh, vice president of consumer marketing at Southern Progress. The publisher was onto something.


In January, the company dropped 500,000 mail pieces, slightly more than in the 2001 mailing. The package included a 6-by-9-inch photo-rich brochure, order card and envelope, plus letters from the editor and executive vice president. Prospects were urged to sign up for a charter introductory subscription rate of $16 for 10 issues, a 60 percent discount on the newsstand price. That mailing so far has yielded 40,000 subscriptions.


That same package will drop next month to lure potential subscribers, this time with several million pieces. McIntosh has rented a multitude of lists from areas like decorating, women's service titles and some catalogs and also used in-house lists. They clearly worked for the January drop.


"We're very excited to see several categories working because that's unusual," McIntosh said. "Typically, I think, in the magazine industry you can mail your direct affinity magazine list, and this seems to be appealing to a broader array of lists."


Cottage Living garners cross-promotional support from other Southern Progress titles. Ploys include cover wraps, inserts in polybags and freestanding, and ads. Titles pitching in include Southern Living, Coastal Living, Southern Accent and Sunset. Time Inc.'s Real Simple and InStyle also will support.


Time Distribution Services will acquire pockets, or slots, at grocery store checkouts, bookstores, home improvement stores and newsstands for this mass-appeal title. The goal is to have pockets in about 20,000 outlets nationwide.


In addition, Southern Living at Home, Southern Progress' direct selling unit, will sell Cottage Living at parties held in homes. A public relations campaign will further spread the word.


Cottage Living will sell subscriptions for 10 issues a year. But its September/October and November/December issues are the only two for 2004.


The magazine starts with a rate base -- the circulation guaranteed to advertisers -- of 500,000 copies. Next year, it drops nine times, with the per-issue rate base rising to 650,000. In 2006, the frequency will grow to 10 times a year, and the rate base is estimated to reach 900,000.


Perfect bound, Cottage Living will be printed by QuadGraphics, Sussex, WI, on 45-pound paper stock inside and 100 pound for the cover. It will cost $3.99 on newsstands and $18 for a yearly subscription beyond the charter offer.


The full site at www.cottageliving.com goes live in early 2005, and the AOL keyword is cottage living. The Web address was bought from a smaller Canadian magazine.


Advertising rates are competitive. A full-page ad costs $30,000 for four-color -- a $60 CPM -- and $22,500 for black and white. Covers range from $31,500 to $40,500. The four-color, full-page ad next year will cost $39,000, with the same $60 CPM. The rate card is negotiable if advertisers strike package deals to run ads in other Southern Progress titles.


Bohlinger and his ad sales team in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and Dallas are busy calling advertisers. The categories that interest them are food, travel, gardening, home and retail.


Though he will not confirm charter advertisers, Bohlinger said automakers from Detroit and Japan showed interest in running pages in Cottage Living. The charter advertiser program is for two or three issues. July 1 is the ad closing for the first issue.


"We really want to get it into 2005 because that starts the year off on the right foot and to keep the momentum of the launch," Bohlinger said.


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